There are numerous professional associations that expand the paralegal’s credentials and credibility. The largest professional associations include the National Association of Legal Assistants which is also referred to as NALA, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the American Alliance of Paralegals or AAPI.
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) is the top association for paralegals. The organization is non-profit and can benefit both new and experienced paralegals. The NALA organization offers certification programs as well as various other educational resources through seminars, online programs, and publications. In order to become a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants, member dues must be paid and certain qualifications must be met. There are three types of memberships: Active Membership, Associate Membership, and Student Membership. In order to qualify for Active Membership, a paralegal needs to have completed the Certified Legal Assistant Exam, graduated from an ABA-approved program, or have a degree and legal assistant experience.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is also committed to helping paralegals succeed in their profession by providing educational opportunities and a chance for professional development. The organization was found in 1974 and has grown to over 11,000 members since that time. It was NFPA that developed the nationally recognized exam called the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam. The organization has worked for years to expand the roles and responsibilities that paralegals are allowed to take on. One of the benefits paralegals experience by joining an organization like NFPA is the luxury of being able to take any professional issues to a credible organization that can provide them with help. Members also have access to information that can help them advance their career.
Many professional paralegal associations, like the American Alliance of Paralegals, have strict codes of ethics that paralegals must abide by in order to remain members. Because of strict ethic codes, attorneys often feel more comfortable hiring paralegals who are members of these organizations because they understand the need for these paralegals to value personal and professional integrity.
Paralegals who decide to join a professional association learn that they have an advantage over those who are not tied to any organization. Joining a professional organization can prove to be a huge boost for paralegals who desire to gain an advantage when it comes to succeeding and having more readily available opportunities in their career.
Individual cities in the United States may have their own professional association for paralegals in the local area. There are currently dozens of major cities that all have professional paralegal associations and paralegals should consider joining these associations for the benefits they have to offer.
The American Bar Association is the basis for all legal professional organizations. It is often referred to as the ABA and it is through this organization that every law firm in the United States operates. The ABA regulates practicing attorneys to ensure that they abide by ethical codes and is also used to regulate paralegals. One of the ABA’s main goals is to ensure that there is no unauthorized practice of law. Because the ABA holds great importance in the United States legal system, many paralegal schools seek approval and accreditation from the ABA.
Paralegals who are interested in going to paralegal school should seek out ABA accredited schools because a school that is regulated by the ABA has clear, high standards and rigorous curriculums. Attorneys who hire their paralegals are more apt to recognize a paralegal school graduate who came from an ABA certified school as legitimately professional.